Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Requiem for a Dream (2000)
  • Time: 102 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Darren Aronofsky
  • Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly


A film paralleling the lives of Sara Goldfarb, a lonely, TV obsessed widow, and her son Harry, his girlfriend Marion, and his drug dealer friend Tyrone. After learning that she will make an appearance on a TV game show, Sara tries to lose weight so that she can fit into her prized red dress, and becomes hooked on diet pills. Meanwhile, Harry and his friends are taking heroin and cocaine. We then witness the disasterous consequences and the downward spiral their lives take as a result of their addictions.


  • It’s difficult to describe the effect that this film had on me. I finished watching it feeling like I had been tortured for an hour and a half, yet this is far and away the greatest piece of cinematography I have ever had the pleasure of watching.

    I found myself turning away from the screen on several occasions and felt physically sick by the end. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion, because from the beginning it’s clear what the fate of our protagonists is. Yet, you can’t help but be drawn in to their characters, to feel nothing but the utmost sympathy for four helpless, hopeless drug addicts that spiral into a form of life barely worth describing.

    Ellen Burstyn is incredible. Darren Arenofsky has created a masterpiece. I can never watch this film again, but my god am I glad I watched it once. Incredible.

  • This is hands down director Darren Aronofsky’s best film to date. I cannot express how powerful and potent Requiem for a Dream is. It is no doubt a masterpiece, an absolute standout in a year of standouts including Christopher Nolan’s Memento, Lee Ang’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love, Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic, and Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark.

    With Requiem, only Aronofsky’s second feature, the director has cemented his place as one of the great modern American filmmakers, a tremendous talent who would continue to enthrall audiences with the unique but underrated The Fountain (2006), and the brilliant dramatic and psychological character studies in The Wrestler (2008) and Black Swan (2010) respectively.

    Contrary to popular belief, Requiem is not entirely a film about drug-taking and its dire effects, though it works perfectly as an anti-drug feature. It is actually a film about the perils of addiction, and it so happens that drug-taking is one of many forms of addiction portrayed in the film, albeit one that is depicted most forcefully and tragically.

    Starring Ellen Burstyn as Sara Goldfarb, who is addicted to a television show ‘We Got a Winner!’, and who gets a telephone call one day informing her that she has won a chance to be featured on that very same show, Requiem depicts to extraordinary extent how she uncontrollably takes diet pills to shed the kilos that would allow her to fit beautifully in her favorite red dress.

    Sara has a son, Harry (Jared Leto), who is a drug trader and a drug addict. Harry has a girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly), who sells her body to get cash to buy drugs, and a good friend, Tyrone (Marlon Wayans), who is also a drug abuser. Centering on the lives of these four characters, Aronofsky intercuts their interactions with each other as they fall deeper into the psychological and physical hellhole caused by the hallucinatory and painful effects of drug abuse.

    I am shocked that Requiem was not rewarded with any Oscar nominations for Best Film Editing and Best Sound Editing. By employing nearly every editing trick in the arsenal, Aronofsky has fashioned a MTV-styled film, accompanied by a throbbing original score by Clint Mansell. The director effectively uses quick cuts, split-screens, fast-forwards in a long take and other editing techniques to bring out the nauseating quality of the entire film.

    In particular, there is a long take scene in which the camera is attached to Connelly’s body as it captures her pitiful face while she walks along a corridor, into a lift, and out after performing a sexual service. It generates an uncomfortable feeling that is a mix of voyeurism (of Connelly’s sexualized body) and sympathy (of Connelly’s character not being able to escape the ‘eye’ of her voyeurs).

    Requiem is then a very challenging film to watch, not only because of its uncompromising portrayal of its theme of addiction, but also the raw, in-your-face techno-visual style – its startling primacy creating a flurry of kinetic images that continue to affect us long after the film has ended. Much of the film’s hypnotic power is also consolidated in Sara; she becomes the emotional core of the film by performance, extending it out to Harry, who in turn, extends it out to Marion and Tyrone.

    Aronofsky also sets the spatial elements out in what I would call the hallucinatory prison, in this case, of Sara’s apartment, in such a manner that it invites a false sense of normalcy but with an undercurrent of suspense and dread that grows stronger as her character breaks down mentally in spectacular fashion in the final quarter of the film. This ‘hallucinatory prison’ notion is repeated in similar ways in The Wrestler (in Randy’s trailer) and Black Swan (in Nina’s apartment) and has become Aronofsky’s signature directorial touch.

    In a nutshell, Requiem for a Dream is indisputably a modern American masterpiece, a provocative cinematic response to the perils of popular culture (i.e. the influence of media) and the drug sub-cultures, and an indirect commentary on the dangerous lengths people would go to have a shot at the American Dream, inviting audiences to thoroughly question and debate the destructive cycle that is addiction. It is also a film that features arguably the scariest refrigerator anyone would probably ever see.

    GRADE: A+

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